We have all come to expect and accept spam emails as a part of our online life and to a large degree there is not a whole lot we can do. However, there is a particular type of communication that causes untold distress to anyone that falls afoul of it.
Emails, phone calls and texts that purport to be from institutions or companies we trust but are actually designed with one purpose, they want what you have. Whether that is money or personal information, they want it and will stoop to any level to get it.
In times past we would have chuckled at the idea of responding to an email asking us to send money to a complete stranger or hung up on the person who told us we had won a competition we had never entered. However, we are now faced with much more sophisticated scams or “phishing” attempts (no, I am not telling you why they call it that, it is a nerd secret and you are not allowed to know.)
More importantly, with a growing number of less tech savvy users now forced into online shopping and a host of digital engagements (Thanks Corona Virus!) there is an equal increase in scams to relieve them of their hard-earned money.
If you are worried about falling victim to these attempts, then please read on for some practical tips on how to spot warning signs and how to make sure you are never the patsy.
Below are the most common signs that you are being scammed, these signs apply to calls, emails, and text messages.
Grammar and tone
When was the last time you read a legitimate letter from your bank that had typos or oddly personal greetings? Real communications are direct, professional, and rarely have typos. If the text email or language used by the person on the phone sounds odd or reads poorly there is a high likely hood that this is not a real attempt.
Asking for private information
If they request personal information be wary! Name, address, IBAN, credit card number. If they are asking for info, take precautions.
Lets just come out and say this. If you did not personally buy a lotto ticket in Spain and in fact even if you did, your odds of winning are astronomical. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof and the bigger the prize they claim you have one the more you should beware. More importantly, you need to ask whether this email, text or call is unexpected. Did you ask your bank to get in touch? If it is out of the blue, then be concerned.
Rather than live your life in fear of being
caught out you should try and adopt the following precautions to stay safe and
keep your piece of mind.
Click nothing, reply to nothing
If an email or a text message is asking you to click, visit, call, or download, stop right there. Check the warning signs and unless you are 110% sure that this is real do not engage.
Call direct & check your account for yourself
If you are dubious about the communication leave the communication to one side the website or call the company directly. For example, if you get an email from PayPal, do not click on the email to log in just open your browser and go to the site directly. Log in and look for the information yourself. If there is nothing there you can be pretty certain you have avoided a scam.
Check a trusted source
If you are asked to call a number for your
bank, then Google the correct number and use that rather than the one in the
text or email.
If you are on a call and asked for
information tell them you will call them back. Do not return the call on to the one they
used, and instead number search for the real company number and see if it
This is the most important. Check with someone you trust. If you feel even vaguely uncomfortable stop the process, tell them you have concerns and want to check with someone. A legitimate call will understand this, but a scam artist will push harder.
Pick looking silly over losing money
Pride is probably the number one reason these scams are successful. It is a modern version of the emperor’s new clothes. The fear of feeling or looking foolish means we are more willing to go along with something even if we think it is questionable. Do not be afraid to appear foolish (it beats being broke). Double check, question the motive for the contact and ask plenty of questions. No legitimate business or organisation will be annoyed that you had to check they were for real.
We cannot live without risk and there are no guarantees that you won’t become a victim of a scam but if you recall some of the above the next time the phone rings or the inbox pings you will be harder to fool than most.